UPDATE: 7:58 p.m. The school district issued the following text message to parents of Central students:
“This is the latest update regarding the “Secure Campus” status at Central High School. The Manchester Police Department has advised the school district that we may undertake the removal of students from Central. The Police action continues so we must do this in a very controlled and safe manner. Students will be transported by bus to Hillside Middle School. Parents and guardians may pick up students at Hillside. A parent or guardian must come to Hillside and dismiss their child in order to maximize the safety of students and control foot traffic in the area of the police action. When arriving at Hillside, please obey officers monitoring traffic. Park in marked spaces only. Adhere to all parking rules and regulations to help the flow of traffic. When you arrived in the building you will be asked to provide the name of your child and we will retrieve your child for you. Thank you for your cooperation in this unfortunate situation as we work to maintain the safety of all involved. You can anticipate the arrival of students at Hillside at or between 8:15-8:30 p.m.”
6 p.m. MANCHESTER, NH — More than four hours after Central High School was placed on “secure campus” status, a precaution taken by Manchester Police due to an active SWAT situation that unfolded blocks from the school, students and staff remained inside the building.
As a result, after school activities, including the Friday night football game against Keene, were cancelled, and food and water was being provided for students and faculty, who remained in the building according to Lauren Smith, Policy and Strategic Outreach Director for the mayor’s office.
The school is following a safety protocol mapped out last school year by Assistant Superintendent Jen Gillis. Smith did not know if students were all together in one place or in separate classrooms, but said the details of the safety protocol were confidential.
Manchester Police have asked the public to stay clear of the area, Smith said. “It’s a matter of safety. Parents can’t pick their kids up at this time.”
Just after 6 p.m., Dr. Bolgen Vargas issued the following update on the school situation, which was posted on the school district’s Facebook page:
Dear Parents, Guardians and Members of the Central Community,
As you know the Manchester Police Department advised Central enter a “Secure Campus” status due to police activity in the area. This police activity continues and Central High School remains in a “Secure Campus.” At this time the district is preparing to provide sandwiches, snacks and water to all students and staff who remain in the building. This is an unfortunate situation but the safety of students and staff must come first. As soon as the Manchester Police Department advises us of changing conditions allowing us to change the current status we will inform you about the next steps to be taken to dismiss students in a safe and orderly manner.
Superintendent of Schools
Stephanie Backman, who works the Office of Employment Security located about a half-block West of where the SWAT team was staged on Hanover Street, said she doesn’t understand why students remained locked inside the building hours later. The entire staff clocked out and left at 4:30 p.m. as usual.
“They have Central High on lock down, yet our office — which is right down the street from the incident — remained open, Backman said Friday night. “We saw police with guns drawn walking past our building. Not one officer came in. We all left at quitting time.”
Backman said the office manager was not in Friday, but someone from the office emailed supervisors in Concord to let them know what was going on at the Manchester office.
“We got no response. I feel they should have closed our office. It feels like disregard for our safety,” Backman said.
The incident began at about 11 a.m. when a shooting was reported at 367 Hanover St. A male victim was taken from the scene. A short time later the Attorney General’s office announced that the victim had died and that Manchester Police had responded to the Hanover Street address with a SWAT team.
As of 7 p.m. police were still surrounding the home and some had entered the apartment. Several rounds of tear gas and percussion grenades had been deployed, but there was no response from anyone inside the home.